Ayomipo Kayode Popoola
Future grad credits the University of Idaho with preparing her for Harvard Law.
For as long as she can remember, Ayomipo Kayode Popoola has dreamt of becoming a lawyer.
She has recently met a major milestone toward this aspiration by being admitted into Harvard Law’s program. Popoola and her mentors credit her diverse history of student involvement and resilient work ethic as reasons for this prestigious achievement.
Since her freshman year, Popoola has been a student ambassador for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; director of Diversity Affairs; lead coordinator for summer, service, and social action through the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action; TEDx assistant; president for the African Students Association; Alternative Service Break leader in Ecuador; and a representative for the UNITY Multicultural Council.
In addition to holding leadership positions across campus, Popoola is heavily involved in undergraduate research through the international studies-focused Martin Institute and is working on research relating to the mental health services provided to refugees in Idaho.
Popoola is also a dedicated student. She’s maintained a cumulative 3.9 GPA while working toward a Bachelor of Arts in international studies, a Bachelor of Arts in sociology, minors in Spanish and Africana Studies, and a certificate in diversity and stratification.
“Seeing what she’s achieved over the years, it’s unbelievable to me,” said Romuald K. Afatchao, Popoola’s mentor and advisor in international studies. “For me to be a part of that, I am very honored.”
Through all of Popoola’s accomplishments, one of the key qualities those around her identify is her incredible humility.
Natalie Magnus, the past coordinator for at U of I’s Center for Volunteerism and Social Action, holds a deep respect for Popoola through the years of being her supervisor.
“The level of her involvement, drive, and tenacity is unmatched by her peers,” Magnus said. “It would not be uncommon for me to come back into my office later in the evening after teaching late or to pick something up, and there would be Ayo, studying for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) or writing a research paper.”
Popoola’s vision to one day attend law school was what brought her to the U of I Services, where she met career advisors, Eric Anderson and Nicole Campbell.
Her compassion made Popoola one of the most respected and beloved students on campus, Anderson said.
“I just feel Ayo for me represents the Vandal Spirit,” he said. “A great story for future Vandals to learn about.”
Through individual appointments, her career advisors helped her prepare for Harvard Law School’s junior deferral program application during the second semester of her junior year.
This program allows undergraduate students two years of personal time to explore other professional, educational, or service opportunities prior to their legal studies at Harvard. Popoola saw this opportunity as ambitious and safe, because she still had time to re-take the LSAT and apply to other law programs if she wasn’t accepted.
Last Spring, one day before Popoola’s birthday, she was notified she was a finalist for the program and would be interviewed the following week. In preparation, Popoola scheduled mock interviews with Career Services in order to sharpen her skills and worked with various mentors throughout her college and programs.
All of Popoola’s preparation paid off. It was less than two weeks after the interviews that Popoola received the call that she was admitted to Harvard’s Law program. While the feeling of excitement was overwhelming, the emotion she recalls feeling most is relief.
“It hasn’t fully sunk in,” she said. “But every time I tell someone new, it sinks in a bit more.”
Popoola now has to finish her last year at the U of I and determine what she wants to do during her two gap years prior to starting at Harvard Law School. She might work, pursue another degree, or travel. As exciting as the future is, Popoola said she will still miss the U of I and what it has given her.
“I have no regrets,” she said. “I could not have imagined myself being anywhere else. I can’t put into words how impactful the International Studies Department has been on not just my college experience, but my life in general.”
It has been an absolute humbling experience to have had the opportunity to write about Ayo and her incredible dedication to everything she has been a part of at the U of I. As Eric said in his interview, I believe that Ayo truly does exhibit the Vandal spirit, and she will forever be known as one of the most influential students within her field. I am looking forward to seeing what else she achieves in the years to follow, because she is one of the most brilliant individuals I know.
Career Services Journalism Intern